In the summer of 2016, Kentucky’s grandest Greek Revival mansion will echo with the sound of voices, footsteps, music, dancing, laughter, passionate argument, intrigue, and betrayal as the men and women of Chekhov’s classic drama, The Cherry Orchard, come to turbulent life under its roof. And as in previous On The Verge presentations, small audiences will follow the action as it weaves through this magnificent manor house.
Ward Hall, you might say, has seen it all before. Once the pride and joy of Junius and Matilda Viley Ward, who built it for the princely sum of $50,000 in gold in 1857, the 12,000 square foot mansion has been described as “…a veritable palace surrounded by a fairy garden….” During its heyday it was the scene of lavish parties and salons where eminent visitors rubbed shoulders with the founders of Kentucky’s then fledgling Thoroughbred breeding industry. (An interesting side note is that Junius Ward was a co-owner of the incomparable racehorse Lexington, who, as portrayed by the artist, Stubbs, is the modern brand image of the city of Lexington.) But these halcyon days were to end in just ten short years. In 1867, in an eerie parallel with the events of The Cherry Orchard, Junius was forced to put the house and its 500 acre estate on the auction block when war-inflicted losses to his cotton plantations drove him into bankruptcy.
A bumpy passage through several hands ended in 2004 when the estate was sold to developers and the house was acquired by The Ward Hall Preservation Foundation, which is currently committed to its upkeep and promotion. Said Foundation chairman, David Stuart, “Our goal is to be a part of preserving a very special culture of living, of mid-19th century America, where Kentucky was first in a number of things. Although the events of the play unfolded in a different time and on a different continent, bringing this great house to life as On The Verge envisions is an exciting way to draw new people in and shine a light on this fascinating story.”